Could A Multi-Year Budget Help Illinois Avoid Fiscal Calamity?

Oct 19, 2015

It's fast approaching the time that the governor and Illinois lawmakers would typically begin planning for next year's budget, even though they've yet to settle on one for this year. Two-year budgets are standard practice for some states.

Should it get to that point in Illinois, it wouldn't be on purpose; universities, 911 centers, programs to help autistic kids, and other agencies that depend on government funding are in upheaval after having gone four months without a cent from the state.

Comptroller Leslie Munger, a Republican, says Illinois' short-term approach to budgeting exacerbates fiscal problems.

"I come from a business environment where it's normal to do annual and five-year plans. And the reason I think we have all of these problems (in Illinois) - one of the reasons - is we take such a short-term approach to all these things. We don't look beyond just trying to figure out just what we are in this fiscal year," she said. "So I support 2 years, even actually having a longer-term plan, thinking of how you might be able to project ... growth, so we can get out of this mess."

However, a 2011 report from the National Conference of State Legislatures says "there is little evidence of clear advantages of either an annual or biennial state budget." It also says that spending controls can be put in place, either way, states that moved from one to two-year budgets haven't found that it's "particularly productive" to long-term planning Critics say trying to forecast two-years out leads to a waste of time.